A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket took off Saturday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying a new Dragon capsule created to carry NASA astronauts into space in the near future. Scores of space tourists gathered in Florida to watch the 2:49 a.m. launch of the Falcon 9 rocket, which went off without a hitch.
It's a test flight without crew aboard, created to demonstrate the potential for carrying astronauts into orbit on a commercial spacecraft.
The next tricky step for the capsule will be docking at the ISS on Sunday at around 1100 GMT, with a return to Earth scheduled for next Friday.
A Falcon rocket blasted off with the crew Dragon capsule early Saturday from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Space X is entrepreneur Elon Musk's company.
The successful demonstration brings the US one step closer to once again sending people into orbit without relying on Russian space vehicles, which have ferried American astronauts to the International Space Station since NASA retired its shuttles in 2011.
Both companies have received billions of dollars from NASA to develop spacecraft capable of transporting astronauts safely to and from the station.
Doug Hurley, one of the two astronauts chosen for the future first manned flight, said: "We will be ready when SpaceX and Nasa are ready for us to fly". NASA selected SpaceX and Boeing to design and build crew-carrying spacecraft to shepherd astronauts to and from the space station - replacements for the Space Shuttle, which NASA retired in 2011.
"A new generation of space flight starts now with the arrival of @SpaceX's Crew Dragon to the @Space_Station", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted. Boeing's CST-100 Starliner capsule could undergo its first uncrewed test flight in April. A test dummy "Ripley" sits behind her in a SpaceX spacesuit.
A concern over Dragon's docking abort procedures was raised by the Russian space agency Roscosmos, one of NASA's global partners in the ISS program.
The capsule is now in orbit, while the Falcon 9 safely landed on one of the drone ships in the Atlantic.
Ten minutes after a picture flawless launch, the SpaceX rocket's first stage successfully touched down on a recovery ship 300 miles off the Florida coast.
NASA is providing eight billion US dollars for SpaceX and Boeing to build and operate these new systems.
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